Kristian Bertel | Photography
Archive story
In this archive story we are learning about the Traditional family structure in India.
Read the background story of this archive photo by the photographer.
In many parts of India, it is common to find three or four generations living together. The father or eldest son, if the father is not present is usually the patriarch while his wife may supervise any daughters or daughters-in-law that have moved into the household.
In many parts of India, it is common to find three or four generations living together. The father or eldest son, if the father is not present is usually the patriarch while his wife may supervise any daughters or daughters-in-law that have moved into the household.
Kristian Bertel, Photographer By Kristian Bertel, Photographer
– Updated on March 22, 2024

Families in India

India is a country with a vibrant and unique culture that dates back thousands of years. One of the oldest and most important aspects of India's culture is its family structure. Indian families are traditionally very close knit and the extended family is typically of great importance. This extended family often includes cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents, many of whom live together in the same home.

How is the traditional Indian family structure?

Structurally, the Indian joint family includes 3 to 4 living generations, including grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews, all living together in the same household, utilizing a common kitchen and often spending from a common purse, contributed by all.

The traditional Indian family
In traditional Indian families, women are expected to take on the stereotypical role of the wife – meaning she should take care of the husband, the kids, the house and she should know her way around the kitchen. While the man does cook a bit, the wife will be the one prepping the majority of the dishes. India is a country of diverse cultures and traditions. With its roots deeply embedded in the traditional systems of beliefs and customs, family life in India plays an important role in determining the structure of the society.

The institution of family is respected deeply in the Indian culture
It functions as a strong cohesive unit and the members are tied together through strong bonds of loyalty, love and affection. Families in India are generally classified into 4 types, which are the joint family system, the extended family system, the nuclear family system and the single parent family system.

No matter what form families take in India, they continue to provide invaluable support and guidance to children and adults alike. Family relationships and values are highly valued and it is within the family where the foundation for a successful life is established. Respect for elders and family obligations are deeply entrenched in the culture and along with love and support, the family plays a key role in ensuring the overall success of individuals and the society as a whole Kristian Bertel | Photography learned while traveling in the country.

"Families are an integral part of Indian culture and have been since ancient times. From early Hindu civilizations to modern times, the family structure has played an important role in Indian society. The family is seen as the foundation of Indian society and provides the social and economic security that individuals need to survive and thrive in their communities"

Major components of family life
To understand the importance of families in India, it is helpful to look at some of the major components of family life. For instance, the eldest person, usually the father or head of the family, is considered to be the most important figure and is usually responsible for making decisions and presiding over family matters. In addition, the mother is traditionally seen as the primary caretaker and educator for the children, while also being an important yet subordinate partner in the family. Furthermore, the family includes other extended grandparents, uncles and aunts and even distant relatives who all have a role to play in raising children and supporting one another.

The ritualistic and traditional aspects of family life
The importance of the family for Indians is also reflected in the ritualistic and traditional aspects of family life. For instance, the family plays an important role in wedding rituals, often organizing and facilitating the ceremonies. Furthermore, family members participate in the various religious activities such as the celebration of 'Diwali', which is the Hindu festival of lights. In addition, end-of-life rituals such as last rites, funerals and ancestor worship are all a part of Indian family life.

"Not only is the family an important source of social and economic support, but it also has strong cultural ties. For instance, family members often live in close proximity and share similar values, beliefs and traditions. This helps to foster a sense of community and belonging, facilitating the sharing and exchange of information and resources and this also creates a strong bond of trust between family members, providing them with the confidence to work together and care for one another"

The roles of a mother in India
In India, motherhood is one of the most important and fundamental roles a woman can play in society. It is often said that the mother is the heart of the family and the cornerstone of every household and the roles of a mother in India can vary dramatically depending on the family's religious background, economic means and traditional values. Generally speaking, however, Indian mothers are responsible for caring for their children, providing for their physical and emotional needs and maintaining the family's spiritual and cultural traditions.

Motherhood in India is filled with joys and complexities
In addition to these everyday expectations, Indian mothers are also expected to educate their children, prepare delicious meals and keep a neat and tidy home. Indian mothers are expected to sacrifice their own educational and career ambitions in order to devote themselves to their children and often struggle to balance the needs of their children with the sometimes overwhelming demands of her own family and society. Additionally, women must often contend with gender roles and bias in India, which can make for an exceptionally difficult life for mothers.

Despite all of these challenges, Motherhood in India is celebrated and given great reverence. A mother's love, wisdom and protection are honored with festivals, ceremonies and rituals throughout the year. On special holidays, like 'Mother's Day', the contributions of women are celebrated in the larger society and prayers are said to thank mothers for their tireless efforts. It goes without saying that motherhood is a difficult job with no shortages of rewards. Indian mothers are not only responsible for the physical and emotional wellbeing of their children, but also for carrying out the cultural traditions of their society. Despite all of the challenges, an Indian mother's love and sacrifices will never be forgotten.

Women are often the backbone of many households in India
The traditional role of women has been central to the functioning of a family in India for centuries. Women are often the backbone of many households and in rural India, they are often responsible for the majority of household labour which can include anything from cooking to managing finances. Despite the societal shift women have experienced in recent years, the role of women in Indian families remain very important and has evolved to include greater independence and decision making power.

Women are the pillar of the family, so to speak, taking on responsibility for the health and wellbeing of the family and ensuring it runs smoothly. When it comes to providing financial stability for the family, women often play a vital role. They may serve as the primary breadwinners since most Hindu-based religions accommodate for them to take on work outside the home and this has had a tremendous influence in questioning the age-old gender hierarchy in India and significantly decreasing the gender pay gap.

Managing the household in India
Women continue to have a leading role when it comes to managing the household. In most Indian families, the mother is responsible for meal planning, shopping and keeping a clean and comfortable home. This task is especially tedious in some rural households where women must travel long distances to fetch water and fuel and maintain gardens. Women also play a critical role in raising children. In India, mothers are generally the primary caregiver and have an important role in teaching children values, morality and religion. This upbringing creates children who are capable of contributing more to their society and allows for communities and families to stay connected.

"It is evident that the role of women in Indian families is vital to the wellbeing of everyone involved. Women are the custodians of the family's values and they are expected to fill the roles of mothers, providers and homemakers. Furthermore, as India modernizes, healthy family life has become increasingly important and women are essential to maintaining that stability"

The joint family system
This is one of the most common family systems found in India. This type of family generally consists of a group of elders, married couples, and their unmarried children living together and sharing common expenses and tasks and the head of the family is usually the oldest male who is respected by all members and has the authority to make decisions. The members are expected to behave in a respectful and dignified manner towards the family.

The extended family system
This is similar to the joint family with the exception of a few members. In an extended family, a few married couples or siblings with their children may live together and these families share common living areas but do not always follow the same financial or task activities.

The nuclear family system
This is rapidly becoming more prevalent and is a much smaller unit than the joint or extended family. This type of family consists of two adults living with their children in one household and managing their own tasks and expenses.

The single parent family system
This is one in which the children are either separated from the parents or are looked after by a single parent. This type of family arrangement is relatively rare in India due to the traditional systems of beliefs and values, but is becoming more common as society strives to become more flexible.

Family relationships are very important
In India, strong emphasis is placed on honoring one's elders and respect for elders is deeply rooted in the culture. Family relationships are very important and children are often taught to revere their parents and grandparents from an early age and family connections come first in Indian society, even above employment and financial stability. The extended family also serves as an important source of emotional and financial support. Family members are expected to look out for one another and offer help and assistance when needed and financial resources are typically pooled and the extended family is expected to provide support, such as housing or education, for children and other family members.

Arranged marriages in India
The traditional concept of arranged marriages is still common in India and it is expected that a family member will be by a person's side throughout the marriage process. A person's parents are often involved in the selection of a marriage partner and the traditional marriage rituals are strongly upheld and the extended family structure in India is a cornerstone of Indian culture and has been an important part of the country's society since ancient times. Close family relationships provide a sense of security and stability and are essential for maintaining a strong cultural identity.

"Families play an important role in Indian culture, providing individuals with the social, emotional and economic support they need. The family forms the basis of Indian society and its cultural, traditional and religious aspects are integral to Indian life. This highlights the continued importance of the family in Indian society and the need to preserve and support this essential structure"

See this video about familye life in India made by The Traditional Life.

"- For those of us who already have an interest in family life, a visit to India can be extremely educational. This is particularly true for an aspiring photographer hoping to capture and document familial relationships in this gorgeous, geographically diverse country. India is so culturally rich and profoundly unique and fearless photographer who is eager to document her experience will find no shortage of opportunities to capture a variety of relationship dynamics. Having recently ventured to India for a photography project, I was astounded with the incredible variety of families I encountered. From luxury apartment blocks in Mumbai to small farming estates in rural parts of Rajasthan, the diversity of India's family structures was vast and awe-inspiring", the Photographer says.

"- One of the most immediately noticeable traits of family life in India is the remarkable bond that exists between parents and their children. There is a reverence for family hierarchy that seems to still exist even in modern day India. Parents, though they may be less strident in their approach, are still respected and looked up to by their children, no matter their age. I was most struck by the deep devotion Indian families had for each other, especially between spouses. Everywhere I went, married couples could be seen walking arm in arm, totally unashamed of displaying their affection for one another. Even among religious families, I noticed an evident respect that husbands displayed for their wives
distinct from what I have seen in other countries", the Photographer says.

- Of all the kinds of familial relationships I photographed, those between parents and their children was by far the most beautiful to behold. I was taken aback by the level of closeness that existed between parents and their kids, no matter their age. Families I encountered seemed to enjoy a greater degree of societal acceptance of all its members and I saw a heightened sense of belonging that resulted from such a connection. From close embraces to children playing in the protective presence of their parent, this was my favorite facet of Indian family life to document. It was essence these kinds of interactions that gave me the most joy. I truly believe that photography is a noble profession and my experience in India of its unique and complicated family structures was nothing short of magical. Without a doubt, India has been a great inspiration to me as a photographer and the opportunity to document these intricacies of family life has been an unforgettable experience", the Photographer says again.

Read also:  Boy in a village portraiture

Boy in a village portraiture

Read also:  Boy in a village portraiture

More archive stories

India is a land full of stories. On every street, on every corner and in the many places in India, life is rushing by you as a photographer with millions of stories to be told. In the archive story above, you hopefully had a readable insight in the story that was behind the photo of an Indian woman in Mumbai. On this website of Kristian Bertel | Photography you can find numerous travel pictures from the photographer. Stories and moments that tell the travel stories of how the photographer captured the specific scene that you see in the picture. The photographer's images have a story behind them, images that all are taken from around India throughout his photo journeys. The archive stories delve into Kristian's personal archive to reveal never-before-seen, including portraits and landscapes beautifully produced snapshots from various travel assignments. The archive is so-far organized into photo stories, this one included, each brought to life by narrative text and full-color photos. Together, these fascinating stories tell a story about the life in India. India, the motherland to many people around the world, a land of unforgetable travel moments. The archive takes viewers on a spectacular visual journey through some of the most stunning photographs to be found in the photographer's archive collection. The photographer culled the images to reflect the many variations on the universal theme of beauty and everyday life in India. By adding these back stories the photographer's work might immensely enhanced the understanding of the photographs.